Mari Jalbing

Many years ago I was invited to a luncheon at Sonia Schmitt's house. Sonia had been both a mentor and a friend for many years. She was the first to hire and more importantly instruct me to become a florist at her restaurant, White House Crawford, in Walla Walla. For nine years I built flower arrangements at her restaurant, and over the course of 17 years, we have become friends.

I don't know what year it was, that Sonia invited a group of women, artists or art enthusiasts, to a luncheon at her home. We were gathered to honor a visiting artist and Sonia's dear friend who  was having an art show at the administration building at Whitman College.  

What I do remember was the artwork, paintings with college and brilliant color. I remember moving around both at Whitman and at Sonia's house with an electric feeling. I knew this. I got what it was. I liked this woman. 

She was funny, and humble, and laughed.  She made work of many layers, colors, and collage. I had been researching Romare Bearden, for Carnegie Picture Lab. I was very attuned to the thought process behind what collage meant. Or rather, what it meant to me- A confluence of sorts, different ideas, each addition to an image came from a different standpoint. Fitting together, her work made lush landscapes or a botanical representations. 

This was all before I was making my work so seriously. I was dabbling. I still held the reins close to my heart. I was deep into Carnegie Picture Lab then. The Napkin Ring Project had yet to start. Walls were still being carved into, wood was burnt with patterns, drawing developed on tiles, I had yet to scream - I am an artist - at the top of my lungs. But I was standing on my toes and I was holding my hands close to my heart. I knew I was about to leap. When I met her.

Admittedly, I was taken, if not nervously so. If I may be so bold, we liked each other. There was a bit of an exchange. Back then I didn't have much to follow up with.  I don't know why. I certainly was not comfortable with my own work yet. I wasn't traveling out into the world. I don't even know if I was reading novels. I was rebuilding myself. Life was my art program, my gardens, my small children, and let us never forget, my husband's work.

I asked Sonia about her, because Mari was first, her friend. I laughed when I heard her husband had been made a federal judge by President Bush. Oh dear, a conservative federal judge not my kind of people. I laughed heartily, as if I knew. Gah, I was so ignorant.

Today while I was driving my little blue truck, doing errands and watching the sky, NPR again talked about the Seattle Judge Robart and his decision to contest President Donald Trump's band of seven countries, primarily Muslim immigrants. Again I heard about the dangers that the world was racing towards. Again I heard the fear that blinds. 

Who stands up to fear? What exists within the fortitude to be able to do this?

Today a man, who I once laughed at, stood up to halt the Trumpain. Today a conservative federal Judge, with quiet intention amidst a few bumbles and mumbles, sat alone on a bench in Seattle and spoke for our country. His word granted a temporary restraining order against President Trump's executive order. A man who makes his life with a woman. A woman who is an artist. An artist who uses layers, and colors, with bits and pieces of differing views, and pasts, and minds to build a new picture, a collective picture. This artist is Mari Jalbing.